Williamsburg, Virginia is many things at once. A college town, a tourist attraction, and a historic cultural hub. “Center of nautical activity” is not one of these things, but one particularly delightful seafood restaurant operates there, set just squarely between Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William & Mary. The décor of Berret’s Seafood Restaurant is charming: in front is a spacious lawn with horseshoes set up, and upon entering one finds oneself in an interior reminiscent of an elegant captain’s den. Paintings of dramatic maritime scenes adorn the walls, along with such authentic sailing paraphernalia as nets and ropes. In all, the restaurant is designed thoughtfully and tastefully, and the servers are friendly, knowledgeable, and courteous to match.
Of course, the focus of Berret’s is unquestionably on its seafood, and almost all of the items on the menu contain different varieties of fish. For my part, I ordered the grand sampler of Berret’s seafood selections: the Original Blue Plate, featuring she-crab soup, sautéed lump crab cake, baked crab imperial, crispy oysters, fried shrimp, broccoli, and mashed potatoes. For those unfamiliar, she-crab soup is a very creamy bisque, not to my personal taste, but a traditional Tidewater specialty. The rest of my meal, to put it simply, was delectable. All of the varieties of shellfish on my plate were prepared in a way that was flavorful and inventive, and the shellfish itself was detectably of high quality. I was given tartar and cocktail sauces on the side, but I hesitated to use them at any point, the taste of the fish being good enough to stand on its own. The rest of the menu, which I did not order, has an imaginative variety and a moderate length.
Berret’s is on the expensive side, but any financially stable person should not let the price distract him or her from the quality and authenticity of the establishment. The service, the atmosphere, and the food make for more than a satisfying meal; a full experience there evokes the stately, august dignity of the nautical world. Without a doubt, I’d go back, as should any diner who appreciates well-prepared culinary bounties of the ocean.